By John Banks
Many have been the mercies, privileges and deliverances of which the Lord your God hath made you rich partakers as you have stood faithful, ever since he gathered you out of the world by an arm of mighty power stretched forth.
And first of all, let me put you in mind of his love and good will towards you in so calling and gathering you. And it hath been through his fatherly care over you that you have been preserved until now. Forever prize the same in all humility before Him, for he is worthy.
And now, dear Friends, you know the good end of the Lord in calling and gathering you to be a people to himself was not only that you should believe in his name, but that you should also suffer for truth and righteousness. And a great work the Lord hath wrought in you and also for you by his power and Holy Spirit of Life in order to prepare and furnish you and give you strength, that you might run the race set before you without weariness or fainting where you meet with many conflicts by the enemy within and deep exercises and hard trials without, so that the saying is fulfilled in you, "Through many tribulations you must enter the kingdom." And yet, notwithstanding the danger on every hand that caused fear and trembling sometimes, and notwithstanding that the rod of the wicked was laid heavy and with sharp strokes upon you, yet through all the Lord your God, by the same power with which he gathered you and brought you through all these things, hath wrought your deliverance and brought you to your desired haven.
And these the mercies, favors, and deliverances which you received from His hand are never to be forgotten. Many times they were little expected, either inwardly or outwardly. And in both respects, when your travel and exercise was great, when a little peace was given and ease from burdens felt, how sweet and precious was this unto you and how did it tend to humble you before the Lord and lay you low before him, to the renewing of your fellowship and communion with him and one with another.
Dear Friends, always keep these things in your remembrance, that like so many good householders you may be found bringing forth out of the good treasure of your heart, things both new and old, and yet all sweet and savory.
Oh! the inexpressible love and kindness of the Most High in calling and gathering you, in quickening and giving life unto you by his eternal Spirit and power, and in causing his heavenly light to shine out of the darkness to give you to see your way out of the same, in which waiting you might witness life more and more. And great was his love and Fatherly care in feeding, refreshing, and nourishing you, causing his gracious showers to fall upon you, his plantation, that the seed of life and righteousness might grow in you in freshness and tenderness.
Oh, the love, mercy, and good will of your God unto you who have stood faithful in your testimony-bearing for him and his pure truth. In the day of your trial he hath borne up your heads over all his and your enemies, that you might not sink in the midst of troubles and he hath filled your cups and maintained your cause, and returned an hundred fold of joy and peace into your bosoms. Even when the body was in prison and the goods spoiled, and husband separated from wife, and wife from husband, sometimes unto death hath the Lord in all these things been as a husband unto the widow and more to the wife than she could either ask or think, and as a father unto the fatherless children.
And in the time, when as to outward appearance, you might have wept and mourned because of your deep exercises, you have even then been made to rejoice and give praises unto God who did not only count you worthy to believe in his name, but to suffer for truth and righteousness, and to say with patient Job also, "The Lord gives, and takes away, &c.," or suffers it to come so to pass, blessed and praised be his holy name and great power for evermore.
Oh Friends! let these things be had in remembrance by you while you have a being. For how hath the Lord gone before you as a King and Captain to lead you on, who have counted nothing too near nor dear to part with, that in faithfulness you might freely and fully follow him, as Caleb and Joshua did, notwithstanding the winds and tempests. And how hath he also followed you with his mercies, blessings, and favors when great spoil and havoc hath been made of your goods and of what the earth brought forth and afforded you. Yea, how hath the Lord caused these things to grow and increase again abundantly so that you have had good cause to say that you have been blessed in basket and in store. And though some have had but little, yet having meat, drink, and clothing, let such therewith be content, for so we learn by the teachings of the grace of God which is sufficient in all states and conditions.
Dear Friends, let these things come often under your consideration, when you lie down and rise up, and go forth and come in. So shall you feel your spirits wrought more and more into true tenderness and brokenness to lay to heart what the Lord hath done since his heavenly day dawned. May not I say to such as can read and understand, "One hath chased a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight." The work is the Lord's, the praise and glory thereof belongs unto him to whom it is due, both now and for evermore. Amen.
And now, dear Friends, the Lord in his kindness and goodwill to you, after a long time of cruel sufferings, tribulations, and deep exercises, hath suffered a day of ease and liberty to come unto you, according to the desire of your hearts, which was not to be expected as to outward appearance, which hath freed you from your suffering condition, both in body and goods, in many places. And although it doth not reach to free me from my bonds, yet the Lord knows that I am truly content with my condition and no more weary than I was the first day I entered the same. And my heart is glad, and my soul rejoiceth upon the account of what is extended unto many Friends.
One hour of such a day and time, once, by many would have been greatly valued, when prisons were full, houses and shops broken up, goods spoiled, and meetings greatly disquieted by wicked informers and others, surely such a day as now is, or one hour of it, would have been greatly prized as a mercy from the Lord, and no doubt was much desired by many and labored for with much care and diligence by others.
And the day and time is now come (and yet continued how long, I shall leave to the Lord) of so large liberty and freedom as I need not to mention. And is it not prized by all as a great mercy, favor, and deliverance, seeing that many prison doors are set open, and the wife enjoys her husband again, and children their parents, and our meetings are continued unto us in a most peaceable manner, praises to God on high for ever? I say, is not this prized by all? I hope it is by many and my desire is that it might be by all. For what a pity were it that such a rich mercy should be undervalued by any, or not considered and prized according to the worth of it, or what it may produce if made right use of. But I fear, and have a godly jealousy, that there are some who are so inconsiderate and unmindful of the mercies of the Lord that they rather requite him evil than good herein.
Oh! let all take heed and beware that because of the present time of liberty and case none may take more ease and liberty unto yourselves in meeting or out of meeting than becomes those professing truth. No, no more ought you to take than if it were a day of trial and deep exercise. For still you have an unwearied enemy to war with that neglects no opportunity which may make for his purpose by many temptations within and evil counselors without.
And though it be not now a time for him and his to rage and roar as though they would devour all at once, yet he will be creeping now in his cunning and subtlety more mysteriously and hiddenly to darken within, to hurt and hinder your growth in the truth, by presenting some delightful object without. And there is no way to have him discovered nor to receive power against him but by waiting and watching with diligence and true fear in the pure light of the Son of God. Therein power is received whereby the power of darkness is trod down and kept under so that he will be known to rule and reign, whose right it is, who is God over all heaven and the whole earth, blessed for evermore.
It is the work of the prince and power of the air, that evil spirit, where it gets place and rules, to do what hurt it can amongst the tender plants of God, to hinder the work of God, as that rending spirit of separation in those that entertained it hath used all its cunning craftiness by creeping in the dark to hurt and spoil within, and so make breaches and separations without. For it is plain and evident, which may greatly tend to confirm all Friends against it, and to convince those that are of it, that this spirit and power which pretends to be the Spirit of Truth and power of God is not the Spirit of Truth nor the power of God. For though such be preachers, they never have been instrumental since they were joined with it, I am fully persuaded, to convince any of sin or to gather any out of the world. Their work has been, and still is, to deceive the simple, and the wise and rich, who love ease and pleasure more than God, his truth and people, and are got into a false liberty and looseness, because they love not to bear the cross and live in self-denial, because they who are of that spirit like ease and liberty to the flesh and carnal mind. This present juncture of time might have served them to work in, but that they have already so far manifested what spirit they are of to all whose eyes are open, by flying and hiding themselves in the time of persecution and keeping Friends out of their meeting-houses. So that now they can do little more harm, though they creep here and there. For that serpentine spirit hath shot its sting and spent the greatest of its strength, so that any child of God now may tread upon it without hurt or danger.
Dear Friends, how can it otherwise be, but all those things rightly considered shall greatly tend to confirm your faith against it, never any more to touch with it, nor them that are of it, and also open the eyes of others, taken as in a snare, to break the snare and come forth from them who are of that spirit, that such may be restored and healed. As many as have escaped, let them prize God's love therein forever.
I say, they have never since they received that spirit I have described been instrumental to convince any of sin or gather any out of the world to God. So it is plain that such are none of his sending nor preparing. They are no ministers of Christ, but of him that is opposite to Christ, speaking from a dark power and spirit which gathers into the darkness out from the true light, where people cannot see the true way.
For the work of the true ministers of the everlasting Gospel is still to gather from darkness into the true light and life, and so into the heavenly Man, who was before the power of darkness was, Christ Jesus the power of God, there to live, move, and have a being where this earthly, separating, rending spirit cannot come. For it hath its power from below, out of the pit of darkness where its habitation and dwelling place is, out of which the Lord God of life keep and preserve you all, my dear Friends, in your habitations of light, there for evermore to live and dwell.
Let all take heed and beware of the deceitfulness of the enemy's workings in the dark, who from the beginning still wrought man's misery by getting an entrance by his lies, contrary to the knowledge God gives by his light and grace. He undoubtedly will now persuade to fleshly ease, careless security, worldly-mindedness, to seek self and its interest, if the watch be not carefully kept. For want of this, darkness enters, deadness comes over them, and a spirit of slumber takes place, which is both a thief and a robber. And the Spirit of Truth not being minded to lead and guide, the spirit of the world gets in and draws and leads into the earth and earthly things. And instead of laboring to be rich in faith and good works towards God, such labor chiefly how to grow rich in the world, that they may have great substance to leave, they know not to whom.
And all this darkness and insensibleness comes for want of waiting and watching with diligence in the light of Jesus Christ, the ancient and standing principle of truth, and because the daily cross to the will and mind that leads out is not borne and lived in.
And some, for want of a rightly prizing and valuing the present mercy so largely enjoyed, suffer a high mind to rule them, which leads above the fear of God and out of a sense and feeling of the pure truth in themselves, and so walk not orderly.
Dear Friends everywhere, as wise men and women have a care in the fear of God and in love to his truth, as those who are ordered and guided in his wisdom, that all people may see that you are no more heightened because of peace and liberty than cast down in a day of trial, but that all may behold your good conversation coupled with fear, that you are as those bowed before the Lord under a deep sense of his present mercy, not forgetting those heretofore received. For although the Lord may be pleased to make man instrumental in this or any other thing, it is unto him alone, who is the Author and Original of all good, that you are to return the praise, honor, and glory forever, though we would not withhold that from man which is his due who is found doing well, which is acceptable with God, and worthy of commendation and praise by all his people, who desire their continuance therein. And dear Friends, as you are preserved before the Lord and all people, you will be of the blessed apostle's persuasion who says, "I am persuaded that neither life nor death, principalities nor powers, things present, nor yet that which is to come shall be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." So let all take heed and keep low in the even way, the middle path, where no extreme is, where you will be kept humble and meek. It is such that the Lord teacheth to prize and value every mercy and favor they receive from him.
It is very rarely those prize liberty and ease to the worth thereof, who never knew bonds, trouble, and suffering. Yea, it is as rare in such as for a man and woman to prize health and strength who scarcely ever knew sickness or weakness, or for those to prize the worth of bread who never knew the want of it.
It is those chiefly who have borne the heavy burden of imprisonment and spoiling of goods and have been straitly confined to the impairing of their health who are ready to cry out and say, "How deeply are we engaged unto the Lord for the enjoyment of this mercy of so large liberty and freedom."
Oh, that you may never forget of the same, though I know the honest-hearted who have their eye to God and love him, his truth and people above all, though never called to suffer, are ready often to say in their hearts, "Though I have never been exercised as other of my friends, yet I cannot but be mindful of their suffering condition and when they suffer, I suffer with them, and when they are freed, eased, or at liberty, I am made truly glad, so that I am engaged with them to praise the Lord for such a favor."
And the blessed effects produced by duly prizing the mercies and favors received from the Lord are, walking worthy of his love manifested to us and valuing the same, which engageth the Lord to give us more abundantly thereof, and constrains us to love him again and to double our diligence. These are so far from taking more liberty to themselves because of the liberty that is given, that they find themselves the more engaged to meet often amongst God's people in all their meetings, not only for worship, but men and women's meetings to do service there for him, his truth and people. But ease and liberty not made right use of bring forth little but idleness and unprofitableness, which render men unfit to do service for God.
Dear Friends, in the name of the Lord go on, and let none sit down by the way, but in faithfulness follow your Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, who never leaves nor forsakes those who follow him, that you may have good cause to say, as those who have made right use of the day of God's love and mercy in giving ease and liberty, as well as when exercised in and under suffering, "Come what will come, the will of the Lord be done."
And all who make not use of this day's mercy for that end and purpose wherefore the Lord hath suffered it to come to pass, which is to engage and establish his faithful people, it will rise up in judgment against them.
Brothers and sisters everywhere, all be awakened unto righteousness to serve the living God, as you ought to worship and serve him, which is with all your hearts, your might and your strength, and with all you have and do enjoy, which is the Lord's. The Lord God of Israel keep and preserve you faithful in serving Him and one another in love for the increase of life and unity amongst you. This is the supplication and travail of my soul unto the Lord on your behalf, into whose blessed and fatherly protection I commit you all, to be kept where safety and preservation is for evermore.
I am your friend and brother in the living and precious truth, though a sufferer in outward bonds for the testimony of Jesus and of a good conscience.
From my prison-house in Carlisle, in Cumberland, the 8th day of the Seventh month, 1687.